AP photographer Desmond Boylan dies in Havana at 54

AP photographer Desmond Boylan dies in Havana at 54
This Feb. 27, 2017 photo shows Associated Press photojournalist Desmond Boylan smoking a cigar on the balcony of the agency's office in Havana, Cuba. Boylan, a photographer who covered war and conflict across the world before dedicating his life to documenting the joys and tribulations of daily life in Cuba for The Associated Press, died suddenly on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 29, 2018, in Havana. He was 54. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — Desmond Boylan, a photographer who covered war and conflict across the world before dedicating his life to documenting the daily joys and tribulations of life in Cuba for The Associated Press, died suddenly while on assignment on Saturday afternoon in Havana. He was 54.

Boylan was covering preparations for New Year's festivities in Central Havana for the AP when he felt ill and asked a local family if he could rest on their couch, where he died. Cuban authorities are performing an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Born in Ireland in 1964, Boylan moved to Spain as a child and began working as a photographer for The Associated Press in Spain in 1989. He went on to become a photographer for Reuters, where he covered conflicts during the end of apartheid in South Africa; the U.S. invasion of Iraq; and war in the former Yugoslavia. He was known as a consummate wire-service photographer, able to transition seamlessly from grueling conflicts to sporting events.

He was also remembered Sunday for his generosity with colleagues, his willingness to share tips and advice with other photographers regardless of their level of experience and accomplishment.

"Desmond was a constant presence at the biggest stories of the last 30 years, a total professional who was also kind and friendly to everyone," said Enric Marti, AP's global enterprise photo editor. "He was an essential part of our coverage of Cuba, and his work let people around the world get to know the island and its people, whom he loved so much."

Associated Press photojournalist Desmond Boylan takes a picture of his reflection in a car window as he talks on his cell phone at a market where he was taking pictures of shoppers buying last minute items for their traditional news years dinners at a market in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Boylan, a photographer who covered war and conflict across the world before dedicating his life to documenting the joys and tribulations of daily life in Cuba for The Associated Press, died suddenly on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 29, 2018, in Havana. He was 54. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Associated Press photojournalist Desmond Boylan takes a picture of his reflection in a car window as he talks on his cell phone at a market where he was taking pictures of shoppers buying last minute items for their traditional news years dinners at a market in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Boylan, a photographer who covered war and conflict across the world before dedicating his life to documenting the joys and tribulations of daily life in Cuba for The Associated Press, died suddenly on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 29, 2018, in Havana. He was 54. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan) (AP)
FILE - In this May 15, 2015 file photo, pedestrians are reflected in a post office window where a poster of Fidel Castro hangs in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this May 15, 2015 file photo, pedestrians are reflected in a post office window where a poster of Fidel Castro hangs in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2015 file photo, fortune teller Adelaida waits for her nail polish to dry as she sits on the sidewalk in Old Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2015 file photo, fortune teller Adelaida waits for her nail polish to dry as she sits on the sidewalk in Old Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, a small, Cuban flag covered coffin containing the remains of Cuban leader Fidel Castro is pulled by a military vehicle through Havana, Cuba. Castro's ashes made a four-day journey across Cuba from Havana to their final resting place in the eastern city of Santiago. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, a small, Cuban flag covered coffin containing the remains of Cuban leader Fidel Castro is pulled by a military vehicle through Havana, Cuba. Castro's ashes made a four-day journey across Cuba from Havana to their final resting place in the eastern city of Santiago. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2015 file photo, people sit on the Malecon as the sun sets in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2015 file photo, people sit on the Malecon as the sun sets in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this May 10, 1994 file photo, Cuban leader Fidel Castro briefly uses the camera of photojournalist Desmond Boylan outside the president's residence as he leaves for the inauguration ceremony for South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/Gary Bernard, FILE)
FILE - In this May 10, 1994 file photo, Cuban leader Fidel Castro briefly uses the camera of photojournalist Desmond Boylan outside the president's residence as he leaves for the inauguration ceremony for South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/Gary Bernard, FILE) (AP)
FILE - In this July 22, 2018 file photo, a man's pet dog stands on his shoulder as they take a dip in the ocean with other swimmers near Playita 16 in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this July 22, 2018 file photo, a man's pet dog stands on his shoulder as they take a dip in the ocean with other swimmers near Playita 16 in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2016 file photo, a Cuban flag covers the side of the road where people wait for the funeral procession of Fidel Castro on the outskirts of Las Tunas, Cuba. Castro's ashes crossed Cuba from Havana to their final resting place in the eastern city of Santiago, passing through the small towns and cities where his rebel army fought its way to power nearly 60 years ago.(AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2016 file photo, a Cuban flag covers the side of the road where people wait for the funeral procession of Fidel Castro on the outskirts of Las Tunas, Cuba. Castro's ashes crossed Cuba from Havana to their final resting place in the eastern city of Santiago, passing through the small towns and cities where his rebel army fought its way to power nearly 60 years ago.(AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2016 file photo, wind blows part of Pope Francis' dress over his head as he arrives to Jose Marti Airport in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis made a brief stop en route to Mexico. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2016 file photo, wind blows part of Pope Francis' dress over his head as he arrives to Jose Marti Airport in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis made a brief stop en route to Mexico. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2015 file photo, a worker prepares to fit a wooden arm onto a Christ statue during preparations of the altar where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2015 file photo, a worker prepares to fit a wooden arm onto a Christ statue during preparations of the altar where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2018 file photo, the honor guard military band march after the arrival of El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2018 file photo, the honor guard military band march after the arrival of El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2017 file photo, a portrait of Fidel Castro with the Granma yacht hangs from the National Library at dawn before a parade in Castro's honor at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. The boat was used by Castro in 1956 to sail to Cuba from Mexico at the start of his rebel movement. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2017 file photo, a portrait of Fidel Castro with the Granma yacht hangs from the National Library at dawn before a parade in Castro's honor at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. The boat was used by Castro in 1956 to sail to Cuba from Mexico at the start of his rebel movement. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this May 17, 2018 file photo, a member of the LGBT community strikes a pose while waiting for the start of a parade marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this May 17, 2018 file photo, a member of the LGBT community strikes a pose while waiting for the start of a parade marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this March 22, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama talks to Cuba's President Raul Castro before boarding Air Force One on his way to Argentina in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this March 22, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama talks to Cuba's President Raul Castro before boarding Air Force One on his way to Argentina in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2018 file photo, people take pictures of the statue of the Virgin of Charity during an annual religious procession in Havana, Cuba. Cuba's patron saint is also recognized as a powerful deity in the African-influenced religion of Santeria, which refers to her as "Ochun." (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2018 file photo, people take pictures of the statue of the Virgin of Charity during an annual religious procession in Havana, Cuba. Cuba's patron saint is also recognized as a powerful deity in the African-influenced religion of Santeria, which refers to her as "Ochun." (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2018 file photo, a man uses the cross walk where the drivers passes in his classic car in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2018 file photo, a man uses the cross walk where the drivers passes in his classic car in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2015 file photo, Cuba's President Raul Castro brings together the hands of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, left, and Commander the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC) Timoleon Jimenez during a ceremony in Havana, Cuba, after Santos and the FARC overcame the last significant obstacle to a peace deal. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2015 file photo, Cuba's President Raul Castro brings together the hands of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, left, and Commander the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC) Timoleon Jimenez during a ceremony in Havana, Cuba, after Santos and the FARC overcame the last significant obstacle to a peace deal. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this July 21, 2018 file photo, a driver takes a nap in the cabin of his truck at an outdoor food market in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this July 21, 2018 file photo, a driver takes a nap in the cabin of his truck at an outdoor food market in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)
FILE - In this May 24, 2018 file photo, rain drops accumulate on a car's windshield as commuters wait at a red light in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
FILE - In this May 24, 2018 file photo, rain drops accumulate on a car's windshield as commuters wait at a red light in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File) (AP)

After meeting Fidel Castro at Nelson Mandela's 1994 inauguration, and briefly lending the Cuban leader his camera to shoot a photo of the surrounding press, Boylan traveled to Cuba, where he met his wife Gloria Gonzalez. The couple lived in Madrid before moving to India in 2004. Boylan covered conflict again in southeast Asia and Afghanistan before the couple and their son Michael returned to Cuba in 2009.

On his Instagram account, Boylan described Cuba as "the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen" and his work reflected a profound love of the island and its people. Many of his photos show Cubans smiling during moments of happiness in a country where life can be a grinding struggle.

"I've always been struck by how Cubans confront difficulties and resolve problems," Boylan told Russia Today's Spanish-language service in a 2016 interview. "Since I came here, all I've done is learn from Cubans how to confront problems. It's been a constant learning experience, that's something I try to explain in my photos, too."

Boylan returned to The Associated Press in 2014 and was a key part of the news agency's coverage of a series of major news events in Cuba starting that year, from the declaration of detente with the United States to a papal visit to the death of Fidel Castro.

"If you didn't live in Cuba, then you knew Cuba though Desmond's lens. He was a master at telling the story of Cuba's people," said AP photography director J. David Ake.

On slower news days, Boylan would tirelessly prowl the streets of Havana and the Cuban countryside, searching for moments that could show the world the beauty and difficulty of the island that he made his home.

"I would like to be invisible," he said. "So that I could be in the street with the people, making photos."

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Desmond Boylan on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/desboylan/